We are finally in Prague after a long drive from Berlin. The road here was fairly smooth except for two hiccups: the terrible jam in downtown Prague, and the traffic ticket from Czech traffic police near the border. We didn't know there was a 80km/h stretch at the tunnel after the border (and it was a common speed trap) and were traveling at the usual highway speeds (in fact way below the highway speed) so we got our first ever fine in our history of road trips.
CZR2000, said the cop, and they take credit cards. We panicked for a bit because 2000 sounded like a lot of money and after a quick check on the iPhone, we realized it was about S$117. Ah well.
We are staying at fashion designer Lucie's place, a lovely apartment we found via Airbnb. It is about five to eight minutes by tram to the city, or fifteen minutes walk.
Her apartment overlooks greenery and you can even see a bit of Prague downtown from the roof terrace. Yes, we have a roof terrace with a gorgeous view.
Ryan and I wondered around the Anděl area and got our 3G sim card from the mall, as well as withdrew some Czech money from the ATM (we only had Sing dollar and Euros on us). Armed with internet and money, we felt braver and relieved.
We wondered through the little market outside the mall, and were tempted by the flowers, homemade jams and wines. But how to carry back?
We decided to get some dinner and for some bizarre reason, we ended up having Mexican food. Burritos and quesadillas in the heart of Prague. Hey, it tasted good, ok?
While we were waiting for our tram, some drunk guy asked for spare change and I absentmindedly gave him a 50 Czech Koruna coin. Turns out it's S$3. Ouch.
Back to our rooftop terrace with the view!
I am here in Berlin to cover the Samsung Unpacked event, and they have unveiled a bunch of new devices, mostly centred around the new Note 4.
The Note 4 sports a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560x1440) Super Amoled display and comes in four colours, White, Black, Gold and Pink (they used fancier names but I can’t remember them off hand lah, simi Frost White or something).
The build quality looks better than the previous Notes, less plasticky. The front camera is 3.7 megapixels and the rear is 16 megapixels, which is fairly standard but the 3.7MP front camera aperture is now F1.9 for better low light use. They also added Smart OIS to the 16MP back camera to take away the shakes, and you can now do Wide Selfies with the front camera, a kind of panorama mode that stitches three portrait mode shots with the front camera together giving you a 120º field of view.
Also added to the Note 4, better multitasking, fast charging (you can get a 50% charge within 30 minutes) and also the Ultra Power Saving Mode inherited from the Galaxy S5.
With three microphones built in (yes, three), the Note 4 has improved ambient noise suppression, and if you use the Meeting mode to record a bunch of people talking around the Note 4, you can isolate up to 8 voices in a 360º circle.
Samsung says the Note 4 is meant to simulate pen on paper and the touch screen now has double the press sensitivity, so the touch and feel is improved and you get more elaborate brushes, like this fountain pen mode I used.
Also new is the Galaxy Gear VR goggles. It currently works with the Note 4 only, and you snap a Note 4 on the front and wear the VR to get a 3D experience to watch movies and play games.
I liked the 3D content I watched but I wonder how much content is going to be available for this gadget at launch. The circus video was in 3D and by turning my head I can see different views of a performance. Look up and see the trapeze artists, look right and see the clowns, turn 180º and see the seats in the theatre. It was pretty surreal.
I think most of us enjoyed the gaming part most. By turning your head to aim and tapping the touch pad at the side to fire, you can play games with the Galaxy Gear VR in 3D. You have to take off your glasses to use the Galaxy Gear VR but there is a built-in diopter to adjust the lens inside till we shortsighted fellows can see clearly.
The new Samsung Gear S watch looks way better than the previous ones. Now with Bluetooth, Wifi and 3G built-in, you can use a nano sim and operate the watch without being connected to a smartphone. The screen is a 2-inch curved Super Amoled display, and there are more apps now, supporting the Gear S. Straps are interchangeable.
And finally, the Galaxy Note Edge, which was quite cool to me. It is essentially the Note 4 with an additional curved screen on the edge.
You can park different menus and info along that edge, like the camera controls in the camera mode so the whole screen can be used for composition. Or watch a movie and if an SMS comes in, it just scrolls across the edge screen instead of interrupting your movie on the main screen itself.
You can even use the edge screen as a night clock (it involved rubbing the edge screen while the main screen is off, which I felt a little strange doing).
I think if you gave me a choice between the Note 4 and Note Edge, I would pick the Edge. That edge screen thing is pretty cool.
I am off to get more food now. I am surrounded by sausages and meats here in Germany. And for some reason, wasps.
Our driver told us, with a totally deadpan face, that it was the end of the wasp season, and they die off by the dozens during this time. And they tend to get a little crazy before they die. I am like lolwut?! Loco wasps?!
After a mad run at Frankfurt airport to catch our connecting flight to Berlin, we are finally here.
It makes me glad I packed light. I got a really good workout running through Frankfurt airport. Most of the delay was at the customs inspection lines. Also, for some reason, my passport wasn't stamped and I went back to the counter to get it done. You don't want to have a long interview about why there is no record of you entering Germany when you are about to fly home.
One of the earliest smells I remember after we landed and were wandering at a mall in the morning (waiting to check in) was curry wurst.
I am told it tastes horrible. But many readers were egging me on to try it. I don't know if it is because they liked it themselves or they just want my reaction.
Berlin looks like a very austere and serious city to me. The wall, or fragments of it, is a prominent part of the art scene here.
Our driver told us that in 1961, the first 150km of the wall was erected very swiftly.
I paid 25 euros for an O2 1GB data prepaid sim (with some call time) in Berlin. It is a bit steep but we are internet junkies so we need our fix. I bought two sims because I know we will use more than 1GB in our time here.
We didn't really have a choice. The Hilton hotel we were staying in, charges 25 freaking euros per DAY for internet access. It's the 21st century, people, and internet access is as basic as running water and air-conditioning in a hotel room, so 25 euros a day is just nuts.
I saw quite a number of stylish cyclists in the city and some bike paths. I think there is a city-wide bicycle rental scheme going on here. I'm certainly going to explore the city on a bicycle in this lovely 15-20°C weather.
Now to look for some beer.
By now, you would have heard the shocking news that Hello Kitty is not a cat. This shocker came from Sanrio themselves:
"Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it's called Charmmy Kitty."
My life is all a lie. Next you will tell me Goofy is not a dog. Or Barney is not a dinosaur. Or The Force is caused by midi-chlorians.
Does Dear Daniel know? Does he know he hasn't been dating a cat all these years?
I believe all these years Hello Kitty wanted to tell us that she was not a cat. But Sanrio didn’t give her a mouth, to keep it a secret.
This is what I believe Hello Kitty will grow up to look like:
[Drawing above done by my super-talented artist friend Artgerm, in response to the shocking Hello Kitty news. Used with permission.]
Someone told me I was on this list. Nice list, ST! It is an honour to be in such esteemed company.
10 prominent Singaporeans who graduated from Hwa Chong Junior College: http://mrbrwn.co/1tvKpYb
This bozo thinks his kids getting wet is more important than an ambulance saving someone's life.
Your children kena a bit of rain will melt ah? Never heard of umbrella ah? Other people got heart attack is less important than you getting wet ah?
Anyone who has ever had to call an ambulance for a loved one knows how critical time is. Every second counts, whether it is at the pickup location or on the road.
Please give way to ambulances, and don't be a dick. One day you or a loved one may be in that ambulance.
[SCDF comment from TR Facebook]
How time flies, another year, another #ndrsg. And what is the meaning of my life if I don't live tweet it? Here we go!
1. @mrbrown: Wait. If PM is doing his #ndrsg tonight, does that mean don't have #夜市人生? Nooooooo…
2. @mrbrown: PM today not wearing pink leh. I feel so disturbed. #ndrsg
3. @mrbrown: PM just sang Liang Wen Fu's 细水长流. I think it is the first time he has ever sung at an #ndrsg Singapore Got Talent siol.
4. @mrbrown: I am sorry. It was a green screen behind PM and I couldn't resist. #ndrsg
5. @mrbrown: Help me, Obiwan Kenobi! #ndrsg
6. @mrbrown: PM can go and do insurance and financial planning agent liao. Wah he can really talk very long on CPF lor. #ndrsg
7. @mrbrown: Are you not entertained? #ndrsg
8. @mrbrown: PM after his CPF speech, "How many of you still don't understand everything I just told you?" #ndrsg Wah lau, which minister dare to say no?
9. @mrbrown: This year boh goodies ah? #ndrsg
10. @mrbrown: Good news: New Science Centre. Bad news: Still in Jurong. #ndrsg
11. @mrbrown: This year #ndrsg I learned: Fishball stick is now NEA problem. They bao ka liao.
12. @mrbrown: Idea to PM to improve Jurong Japanese Gardens and Chinese Gardens: Move them out of Jurong. #ndrsg
13. @mrbrown: Idea to PM to improve Jurong Japanese Gardens and Chinese Gardens: Plant some Japanese people in Japanese Gardens. #ndrsg
14. @mrbrown: PM shared about all the new MRT lines coming up at #ndrsg and all I can think about is, dig so much Singapore won't sink meh?
15. @mrbrown: The new Singapore-KL high speed rail station may be located in Jurong. So you need your passport to go Jurong first. Then again at JB. #ndrsg
16. @sohbengkuan: Who still say Jurong boring and ulu after this year #ndrsg? (Me. -mb)
17. @miyagi: In other news, Old Chang Kee to start selling fishballs without sticks. #ndrsg (Or without the fishballs too. -mb)
18. @mrbrown: This year the #ndrsg goodie is… Fishball Stick.
19. @mrbrown: And now stand by for the news, that will repeat everything the PM said at #ndrsg
20. @mrbrown: @miyagi and I ask important questions of PM after his #ndrsg
21. @Fake_PMLee Last year #NDRsg , selfie stick. This year, fishball stick.
22. @mrbrown: One fella anyhowly throw fishball stick, and Grace Fu now has new job as Municipal Services Office head. Buay pai. #ndrsg
And this morning, I turn to the Sunday papers and find:
Seen in a YouTube comment: “I’m sure there's other good products besides tiger balms that relieve pain, I don't use tiger balm because they kill tigers for it.”
When I posted this on my Facebook page, I got many interesting responses:
David: "They kill faces to produce facepalms as well."
Abel: "I dont drink Tiger beer for the same reason also."
Shaun: "They kill rabbits for 大白兔奶糖"
Jackie: "I'm fine with olive oil, but baby oil?"
David: "I always use Extra Virgin."
Alex: "How about Camel Nuts?"
Stella: "Hey don't laugh. I used to think Chee cheong fun was real pig intestine…"
Terrence: "How about Mama Lemon?"
Aric: "I don't mind people being vegetarian, but don't talk to me if you're a humanitarian."
Lillian: "What about fish balls?"
Kelvin: "Good luck to the person called Pocari. I think he's definitely working very hard to produce all that sweat."
When you first get your home, every renovation detail must be right. By the time you've lived in it for ten years, with three kids: masking tape.
Oh, the fancy glass from the wardrobe door fell off? Cover with pieces of art that the kids made.
In case you are wondering, the bird one on the top right was by Isaac, the flower on an ice-cream stick in the middle and the splatter piece on the bottom right were by Faith, while the rest were done by Joy.
This was written by a nurse friend of mine, let's call her "Nurse A". I thought it was very enlightening to read, a look at the societal perspective on the value of health:
[Photo of my brother tending to my mother who was recovering after her knee operation. She fractured her knee earlier this year.]
As more articles surface regarding nursing, lack of nurses and demand for pay raise, I only have one recurring thought — society has all our priorities wrong.
A nursing diploma is one of the least desirable — an aggregate of 28 points will get you a place in poly. Most say that is so that those who want to be a nurse, can be a nurse, regardless of grades. But that means that those who do not do well, or cannot study well in secondary school and cannot make it to say, Business, or Arts, may choose to study nursing.
Then this whole cycle starts:
1. It is not their interest, thus, many will drop out or not work as nurses even after graduating. And we wonder why polytechnics cannot churn out enough nurses to meet the need. They don't end up in the workforce.
1a. Don't get me wrong here, but healthcare is dealing with lives, with medicine. We let a bunch of people who can't study well and have poor results become nurses. Nurses who are dealing with your lives. A calculation error or an error in judgement can occur in anyone, but I just don't see why you want the smartest to become doctors and the not-so-academically-inclined to become nurses. (Note: I've seen people who are horrible in their studies go on to be awesome nurses, but you get my point about the different requirements for people who are technically in the same line and deal with life and death)
2. If they don't have a backup job to go to, they start working as nurses. Then you have a group of nurses who have zero interest in working as a nurse - You have a bunch of average nurses. A bunch of average nurses, who do the bare minimum, who ARE TAKING CARE OF YOUR ELDERLY FATHER. That's right.
3. And the pay. The pay is not enough. We work long hours, with high patient acuity, low manpower, short or no breaks, highly stressful environments, low recognition/ appreciation, and you get to deal with the unreasonable patient or family. How is it justifiable? Someone that deals with your money earns way more than someone that deals with your health. Obviously, money is more important than health to this society.
4. Then, people migrate or switch to the private sector. The pay in higher, the patient load lesser, and the satisfaction is higher. Then the workforce loses manpower.
There's more to this never ending cycle. But the main point is, society needs to review its priorities. Just raising the pay of nurses to "pacify" the nurses in the workforce now will not solve the problem. To breed a different class of nurses, it needs to start all the way from people's mindsets. From the start of education.
Just remember, you may be the world's richest billionaire, but if one day you are stuck in a hospital under the care of a underpaid, undereducated nurse who is working three jobs to support her family, who has 12 patients under her care, three hours of sleep, no food, a full bladder, five bloods to take, 7 medications to serve, money cannot save you then.
We had just finished lunch at the coffee shop and were driving home.
I took out some change from my shirt pocket and said to the wife, "Can put the $2 notes back into my wallet? I'm driving. Hey wait, you're doing it wrong. I like the big notes behind, small notes in front, and facing the same direction."
"I know," the Love of My Life replied, "I just want to irritate you."
My wife is such a troll.
Once again, it is National Day, our nation's 49th birthday. And what is National Day without some #iamsingaporean tweets, right?
Some background and trivia: "I Am Singaporean" actually started out as a series of audio podcasts that were recorded by me, Miyagi, my friends, and my favourite one, by my wife, in 2006. Go have a listen if you have never heard them.
Since then, I have been tweeting this hashtag almost every NDP because it is fun to declare what it means to be Singaporean. I kicked it off this morning and it has gone right through the trending roof, because, well, because we are all #iamsingaporean lah.
Oh, yes, before I forget: Happy 49th Birthday, Singapore!
1. @mrbrown: Other people Fourth of July go picnic. We Ninth of August go wet market and eat at hawker centre. #iamsingaporean
2. @syzzlyn: @mrbrown Hahahah Exactly what my parents did this morn… at Bedok Central. #iamsingaporean
3. @mrbrown: Want to scold, can scold me. We don't play mother one. #iamsingaporean
4. @mrbrown: Don't care how long the queue is, the queue so long must be the food very good. #iamsingaporean
5. @mrbrown: Must have my morning kopi or teh. #iamsingaporean
6. @miyagi: I live on an island, I fly abroad for island holidays #iamsingaporean
7. @miyagi: We care about national security, but we use our office keycards to chope seats. #iamsingaporean
8. @melpig: No kopi cannot work. #iamsingaporean
9. @Seat24Charlie: I pay good money to spend the weekend in a hotel 20 minutes away from my house #iamsingaporean
10. @HongJieOng: buying from your regular stall till they can memorize your order. #iamsingaporean
11. @mrbrown: When I say LJ, I don't mean LiveJournal. #iamsingaporean
12. @miyagi: #ManU, #Chelsea or #Liverpool can be our teams, but we dun know or support any S-League ones. #iamsingaporean
13. @mrbrown: Grandparents speak five dialects, parents speak one dialect (maybe), kids don't even know what their dialect group is. #iamsingaporean
14. @HaruLoku: You know you're Singaporean when you've never eaten these before #iamsingaporean (Eat liao will Merlion. -mb)
15. @furryphotos: Willing to queue 4 hours to book a table 3 months at a super popular restaurant. #iamsingaporean
16. @Gdy2shoez: I travel from Pasir Ris to new mall in Jurong because #iamsingaporean
17. @frhn: The #iamsingaporean tweets are hilarious. (Thank you. It's my yearly national duty. -mb)
18. @darrylho: #iamsingaporean No aircon will die
19. @MascotNila: Being able to instantly pick up a Singlish accent from across a crowded restaurant while overseas. #iamsingaporean
20. @mrbrown: One of the best public transport systems in the world. But not best enough for us because #iamsingaporean
21. @mrbrown: Four different cashless payment cards in one wallet. #iamsingaporean
22. @CDPPie: Knowing the difference between "air" and "air". #iamsingaporean (Baik lah! -mb)
23. @ronaldisthewan: I squatted by the drain to brush my teeth when I was a primary sch student for some national campaign. #iamsingaporean
24. @melpig: Order Milo by saying "tat kiew" at coffee shops. #iamsingaporean
25. @tstar: Go to hotel lobbies to use their toilets because the toilets are very nice #iamsingaporean
26. @hellofrmSG: .#iamsingaporean because when I see people starting this convo I also want to chap jin lai
27. @_shxrty_: Cold weather also tweet, hot weather also tweet. #iamsingaporean
28. @mrbrown: We are a nation of readers. #iamsingaporean
29. @zomgitsashok: National Day. Confirm must wear red. #iamsingaporean
30. @miyagi: Excited that many stores are offering 49% discounts. Can't wait for #SG100. #iamsingaporean
31. @tanhuiyi: I smuggle food & drinks from NTUC into Shaw or Golden Village #iamsingaporean
32, @Nyzms: Alamak. Here comes @mrbrown with his hashtag of the day. #iamsingaporean
34. @NeilHumphreys: Loving the #iamsingaporean stuff. loving it. (We love you too, Mr Humphreys. -mb)
35. @MothershipSG: #iamsingaporean because I think mee kia is spaghetti and mee pok is linguine
36. @funkshin: #iamsingaporean cos my bomb shelter is too full to protect me from bombs. (Where we keep the toilet rolls. -mb)
37. @ronaldisthewan: Every MRT stop has a shopping centre. #iamsingaporean (Almost, hor? -mb)
38. @lynnylchan: Sitting in the sun at Marina Bay to book my camera spot for fireworks later. #iamsingaporean
39. @ComradeTovarich: Because I complain about everything under the sun including the sun itself. #iamsingaporean
40. @yinghaoz: I type on WhatsApp faster than you type on computer because #iamsingaporean
41. @IanLeong93: Getting outraged that economic rice at food courts cost more than $5 #iamsingaporean
42. @frhn: All year long complain non-stop about the country but for one day, on 9 Aug, suddenly overly patriotic because #iamsingaporean.
43. @sarahcoldheart: I KNOW HOW TO DO THE GREAT SINGAPORE WORKOUT. #iamsingaporean (You more Singaporean than me then. Haha! -mb)
44. @chezevo: I am very amused by @mrbrown's #iamsingaporean tweets every year (Y) (Tankew! -mb)
45. @mrbrown: National Day still got tuition and revision. #iamsingaporean
46. @mrbrown: Would never wear or buy anything with a Merlion on it because #iamsingaporean
47. @MothershipSG: #iamsingaporean because I don't carry umbrella out and then it rains.
48. @mrbrown: We love our parks. #iamsingaporean
49. @Hwang_Yihui: When someone living in Jurong dates someone living in Pasir Ris it's called a long-distance relationship #iamsingaporean
50. @funkshin: #iamsingaporean cos I still dunno when to sing "bersatu" and "bersaru" in Majulah Singapura. (But I do! -mb)
51. @ronaldisthewan: Animals teach us when we were young. A lion says be courteous, a bee says be productive, a frog says keep it clean & green. #iamsingaporean
52. @mrbrown: Put. Chilli. On. Every. Thing. #iamsingaporean
53. @thebrainyspecs: Accidentally-on-purpose wearing red today. #iamsingaporean
54. @HongJieOng: Wearing Man U shirt to floating platform later. #iamsingaporean
55. That ecstatic feeling when @mrbrown retweets you #iamsingaporean (Good things must share mah! -mb)
56. @dtio: I follow @mrbrown just because #iamsingaporean (Tankew! It is my honour. -mb)
57. @howwow: Now this feels more like National Day with @mrbrown tweets #IAmSingaporean Happy 49th National Day Singapore! (Kumsiah! -mb)
58. @NeilHumphreys I am kinda, secretly, looking forward to #NDP fireworks and truly have no idea why. #iamsingaporean
59. @jeffcheong #iamsingaporean because is will always sing an extra 'ma' at the end of the national anthem.
60. @madebyjw Happy 49th Birthday, Singapore! #iamsingaporean
61. @mrbrown: Working from home. On a public holiday. Without a shirt on. Because so hot ok? #iamsingaporean
62. @mrbrown: Tweet/Instagram/Facebook until battery dead. #iamsingaporean